25 Timeless Quotes From Ancient Greek PhilosophersMarch 2, 2021

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Ancient Greek civilization is one of the foundations of Western culture, and its influence still echoes in our daily life. These thinkers gave us the modern concepts of pedagogy, mathematics, democracy, and, of course, philosophy.

The early philosopher Pythagoras is credited with inventing the word “philosophy” in the 5th century BC, referring to a love and respect for wisdom. Over time, the term began to designate a special kind of wisdom, born from the methodical use of reason.

Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato were among the first on record to deeply examine human existence and grapple with weighty ideas like morality, happiness, and the purpose of life. They theorized that there are universal truths, and used those truths to teach a system of  justice and law based on human nature and virtue. In so doing, the ancient Greek philosophers left us a treasure trove of hard-earned wisdom that thankfully has survived through the ages. And remarkably, many of their lessons still resonate today.

ON LOVE

For once touched by love, everyone becomes a poet.
– Plato

ON BREVITY

A multitude of words is no proof of a prudent mind.
– Thales of Miletus

ON HAPPINESS

For some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity. Now … it is not probable that these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.
– Aristotle

ON TAKING RISKS

Do not let habit, born from experience, force you along this road, directing aimless eye and echoing ear and tongue; but judge by reason the much contested proof which I have spoken.
– Parmenides

ON CHANGE

All is flux, nothing is stationary.
– Heraclitus

ON LIVING SIMPLY

He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.
– Epicurus

ON WISDOM

Fame and wealth without wisdom are unsafe possessions.
– Democritus

ON EDUCATION

Only the educated are free.
– Epictetus

ON WONDER

Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
– Socrates

ON QUESTIONING RELIGION

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.
– Hypatia of Alexandria

ON MODERATION

Everything in excess is opposed to nature.
– Hippocrates

ON SELF-DETERMINATION

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
– Epictetus

ON QUESTIONING THINGS

The unexamined life is not worth living.
– Socrates

ON VIRTUE

The greatest reward of righteousness is peace of mind.
– Epicurus

ON PATIENCE

Force has no place where there is need of skill.
– Herodotus

ON NATURAL LIFE

We should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.
– Aristotle

ON THE PERMANENCE OF CHANGE

Everything flows, and nothing abides, everything gives way, and nothing stays fixed.
– Heraclitus

ON FRIENDSHIP

Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.
– Epicurus

ON BEING HUMBLE

I myself know nothing, except just a little, enough to extract an argument from another man who is wise and to receive it fairly.
– Socrates

ON LIVING WITH LOVE

Neither family, nor privilege, nor wealth, nor anything but Love can light that beacon which a man must steer by when he sets out to live the better life.
– Plato

ON STRENGTH OF CHARACTER

It is difficulties that show what men are.
– Epictetus

ON DESIRE

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
– Seneca

ON JOY

Virtue alone affords everlasting and peace-giving joy.
– Seneca

ON GRATITUDE

He who receives a benefit with gratitude, repays the first installment of it.
– Seneca

ON PATIENCE

No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
– Epictetus